2014 Trofeo Princesa Sofia - Olympic silver medal-winning sailor Luke Patience says he is buoyed by the early promise of his new partnership with Elliot Willis, as the pair prepare to compete this week for the first time since teaming up in their quest for gold at Rio 2016.
Patience, 27, and the Sevenoaks-based Willis joined forces in the two-person 470 class after the Scotsman’s previous crew, double Olympic silver medallist and father-of-five Joe Glanfield, called time on Olympic campaigning last month, leaving Patience searching for a new teammate with whom to further his golden ambitions.
The new duo will this week embark on their first World Cup series competition at the Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma, Majorca (31 March-5 April), and although they have completed just ten days of training together in the build-up, Patience feels the new team, with Willis a double World Champion in the class, is full of promise.
'It’s going really well. We’ve jumped into it reasonably seamlessly – there aren’t any results behind that yet, but in terms of how it feels together, it’s clunked in nicely and we’re in a good place together. We’re really enjoying it,' the Helensburgh sailor explained.
'It’s not what you’d plan, to be starting a new partnership – whoever that’s with and however that happened – two and a half years before the Games. But I’m a great believer in things happening for a reason, and for the right reasons, and me and Elliot have teamed up at the right time for the right reasons.
'We’d spoken about sailing with each other before, and different series’ of events meant that we weren’t in a boat together before now, but it is what it is and I feel like me and Elliot have so much respect for each other – even more so now we’ve been in a boat together. We understand each other better for having competed against each other. I think it was the same for me and Stuart [Bithell] – we understood each other better because we’d raced against each other.'
Patience insists he’s not eyeing a medal from their first event together this week, given the complexities of the sport, the 470 class and the relationship-building aspect of any new partnership.
But he equally sees no reason why the duo shouldn’t be pushing the best from the rest of the world at their first event Palma – including the Australian Olympic Champion Mat Belcher, now sailing with Will Ryan, whose two-year winning streak in the class came to an end at the Miami World Cup last month.
'I think that while it wasn’t us that beat them in Miami, seeing them get beaten for a lot of guys probably made a big difference,' said Patience of his key Rio rivals.
'I think that people are a bit more intense now, and maybe the fleet sort of snapped and thought enough was enough.
'I’ve never felt intimated by the Aussies, I’ve never been annoyed by them. They’ve simply put together a better programme and you can’t dispute that, but it’s only made me hungrier. It’s never dampened my spirit – my spirit is a hard thing to dampen, that doesn’t happen much!
'Me and Elliot are in the same place, we get along really well, we have a great level of trust for each other in the boat, and we have a laugh. I always have a laugh! I struggle to not have a smile on my face – that doesn’t mean I don’t want to win, but I appreciate what we have together and what we’re able to do together.
'At the end of the day, we’re asking so much of ourselves, we’re asking great things, and I hope me and Elliot go on to produce those great things. I’m sure we will.'
Racing at the Princess Sofia Trophy gets underway on Monday 31 March, with the final medal races scheduled for Saturday 5 April.
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